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If Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, was thinking he’d get a break after a rough weekend at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn that included a practice wreck that brought out the backup car and a race day that ended on lap 54 of 200, he better think again.
Brakes of a different sort, however, are definitely in order this weekend as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to the .533-mile concrete oval of Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The tight, bullring-type confines mean 43 cars are battling for a small spot of real estate, a recipe that’s great for fans but can produce some fireworks and frustration for drivers.
Johnson has struggled at times under these conditions. Bristol is his fourth-worst track for driver rating – a formula used by NASCAR averaging several key statistical categories – with a 96.8 average out of a possible 150 points. He has been on a bit of resurgence as of late, evidenced by his average finishes. Since 2009 he only has finished outside the top-10 twice (March 2012 and August 2010). In fact, more than half of his 23 starts have ended inside the top-10.
A win is on the to-do list this weekend, like he did at Bristol in April 2010. With Johnson firmly locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, the only thing that can separate him from the field once it’s reset after Richmond is another win. He currently is tied with Matt Kenseth with four but Johnson holds the tiebreaker with a second-place finish to Kenseth’s next-best finish of fifth.
And while Bristol’s unpredictability and aforementioned run on real estate may put the brakes on his plans for a win, his recent finishes suggest he may get a break after his 40th-place end to last week’s race.
Talk about transitioning back to racing on a short track after a stretch of 1.5- and 2-mile tracks:
“Yeah, short tracks are fun. I’m looking forward it. The night race in Bristol is awesome. I tell many, many friends, if they are going to pick one, that is the one that they need to come see and be a part of for a lot of reasons. I’m excited to go back. We run well there. I’d like to find a little bit more and really be a car racing for the win and go to victory lane again. I have high expectations and expect to go there and run really well.”